WASHINGTON — Mayflower Moving appears to be making up for years of neglect in Baltimore.
About 33 years after the Colts left Charm City for Indianapolis, the Oakland Raiders have become the third NFL team in the last 15 months to relocate (and second in 75 days). The NFL made the long-rumored move official on Monday, when the league’s owners voted 31-1 to let the Raiders move to Las Vegas once their current lease expires in 2018 (if you’re wondering, only Miami voted it down). And there’s no reason to believe the relocation carousel will stop anytime soon.
You can’t really blame the Raiders for leaving. They’ve been playing in a lousy stadium for years, and Oakland told them they’d get nothing and like it. Meanwhile, Vegas was more than happy to peel off what amounts to $950 million to bring the Silver and Black to the land of blackjack. It’s an offer even Moe Green wouldn’t refuse.
So really, three questions come to mind regarding this move. First, does this relocation mean the NFL is suddenly okay with gambling? I mean, this is the league just a few years removed from putting a stop to Tony Romo’s scheduled appearance at a fantasy football conference in Las Vegas because of their distaste for gambling. (Sidebar: The co-founder of that convention is asking the same question.) At worst, the NFL just made a deal with the devil. At best, they just undermined their efforts to keep their distance from the things that happen in a city that prides itself on the slogan “what happens here, stays here.”
Second, how will Las Vegas receive the Raiders? Vegas seems like one of those markets that’s way more preoccupied with the distractions the city has to offer (see also: Miami and Los Angeles). Yet all of a sudden, pro hockey and pro football have managed to make their way to Sin City.
My guess is the newness of the Raiders being in Las Vegas will drive interest for the first couple of home games, but they’ll have to be every bit as good as they were in 2016 to keep interest beyond that. Of all the NFL teams, the Raiders’ renegade legacy is a great fit for Vegas and an exciting team with young stars such as Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack will certainly help endear them to locals.
Third — and perhaps most importantly — what’s up with the frequency with which NFL teams are relocating? Stadium quarrels sent the Rams and Chargers to Los Angeles and the Raiders to Vegas, so is this now the trump card for teams looking to improve their stadium situation? The New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could all find themselves in a showdown with their respective cities over a new stadium soon. While I have a hard time seeing the Saints moving, I don’t think it would be crazy to think Florida could undergo the same game of musical chairs we’ve seen in California over the last year-plus.
What’s sad is that teams inextricably linked to their locales typically aren’t made whole. I still find it ridiculous the NBA’s Jazz plays in Utah rather than New Orleans. We’ve gotten used to the Lakers being in L.A. but when you consider their history in Minneapolis, it’s really a crime against basketball.
This Raiders move is a departure from the ones we saw in the 1980s-90s, when cities abandoned by their NFL teams got shiny, new expansion teams. The league has an even 32 teams spread among eight divisions and has no interest in messing with that symmetry. Even if they did, Oakland couldn’t reasonably expect to get an expansion team with a profile as bada** as the Raiders.
There’s a very permanent feel to the NFL’s latest relocations. As long as the league’s bottom line drives their decisions — and teams value playing in gaudy stadiums (helped paid for by big money naming rights) over loyalty and tradition — expect this sport to feel more like business and decidedly less personal.
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